What is Driving Population Gains in Canada’s Major Cities?

What is Driving Population Gains in Canada’s Major Cities?

Statistics Canada just released population estimates for sub-provincial areas. They provide a detailed picture of the population distribution in the country’s Census Metro Areas (CMAs). A comparison of the estimates for 2021 with the previous year shows short-term shifts. However, longer-term population comparisons filter out transient changes and shocks, thereby revealing underlying and likely enduring trends over longer periods of time.

Kelowna is the nation’s fastest growing CMA as of 2016

Over the past five years and across Canada’s 35 CMAs, Kelowna’s population has grown at +2.4% annually, more than double the national average of +1.1%. Since 2016, the city’s population has increased by +24,500 people, mainly due to an influx of +12,000 migrants from provinces outside of British Columbia. Additionally, an estimated +8,200 people have moved to the city from BC to accompany the +4,300 non-permanent migrants from outside the country.

Halifax, Oshawa and Kitchener-Waterloo-Cambridge took second place

Between 2016 and 2021, Halifax, Oshawa, and Kitchener-Cambridge-Waterloo all grew an average of +2.1% per year, behind only Kelowna. Halifax has shown the fastest acceleration in population growth over the past five years compared to the previous five years. Originally driven by an increase in international net migration from 2016 to 2020 and more recently by a strong influx from other provinces, Halifax’s population growth rate has increased from +0.5% annually (2010 to 2015) to +2.1% (2016-2021).

Since 2016, over two-thirds (69%) of Oshawa’s +43,000 population increase has been attributed to an influx of migrants from Ontario. This strongly suggests that the acute shortage of affordable homes next door in Toronto is prompting people, many of whom are first-time buyers, to look east. Other contributors to Oshawa’s continued strong population growth include an influx of +5,000 permanent immigrants and +3,500 non-permanent migrants.

After posting an average year-on-year growth of 0.9% between 2010 and 2015, the Kitchener-Cambridge-Waterloo CMA experienced an average annual growth of 2.1% from 2016 to 2021 due to a significant increase in non-permanent inflows Residents (+23,000), permanent residents (+18,400) and net migrants within the province (+13,000).

International net migration crucial in Canada’s 3 largest CMAs

Over the past five years, the population of two of Canada’s three largest CMAs has grown only slightly faster than the country as a whole. Since 2016, the populations of Toronto and Vancouver have each grown at an average annual rate of +1.4%, compared to the national average of +1.1%.

By far the largest contributor to Toronto’s population growth of +450,000 over the past five years was a net inflow of +591,000 immigrants (both permanent and temporary) from outside Canada, partially offset by an outflow of -260,000 residents from other parts of the province, including the Oshawa CMA (mentioned above).

With housing affordability deteriorating in Toronto, which has steadily accelerated since 2015, the outflow of residents to other parts of the province between 2016 and 2021 more than doubled the previous five years.

As with Toronto, Vancouver’s population increase of +190,000 over the past five years was primarily due to continued growth in international migration, both permanent (+127,000) and non-permanent (+53,000). On the other hand, and with Canada’s housing market being the least affordable, the number of Vancouver residents moving to other (less expensive) parts of the province has increased sharply, from an average of +3,700 per year between 2010 and 2015 to an average of +12,500 between 2016 and 2020.

Montreal, Canada’s second-largest CMA, has experienced average population growth of +1.0% over the past five years, just below the national average but marginally faster than the average growth of +0.8% over the previous five years. Despite Premier Francois Legault’s efforts to limit international migration, Montreal’s population has increased by +200,000, mainly due to an influx of +250,000 international (permanent and non-permanent) migrants, partly driven by an outflow of residents to other parts of the Country was balanced province (-100,000) and other provinces (-23,000).

More balanced population growth in 2022 and 2023

Looking ahead, the fact that permanent resident admissions in 27 of the country’s CMAs were higher in 2021 than before COVID-2019 suggests that above-average urban population growth will continue into 2022. Additionally, the federal government’s announced plan points to increasing immigration numbers over the next two years and improving prospects for the country’s energy-producing provinces suggest that the strong pattern of population growth in most of the country’s 35 CMAs will continue through 2023 will stop.

John Clinkard has over 35 years of experience as an economist in international, national and regional research and analysis at leading financial institutions and media companies in Canada.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *